Thursday, October 01, 2009

New month. Time for a status report on works in progress. Officially, there are eight of them, but I'm taking a couple of them off the active list.

The Double Wedding Ring is coming along. Whether it will be done in time to take with me when I head north for Christmas is becoming doubtful. But the blocks are more than half finished, and there are pieces to make more.

Christmas Applique is my current hand-quilting project. Three of 15 blocks are quilted. I have no particular time line in mind for this, so any forward movement is okay.

The same is true of Appliqued Kitties. This is a hand applique project that gives me something small and manageable to work on when I don't feel like knitting. I'm working on block #6 of a projected 20 blocks.

Turning Twenty Again is ready to be basted and prepared for quilting. I want to use this piece to try out a method of basting that Sharon Schambers uses that seems to hold promise for large pieces (like the Double Wedding Ring). I've used a modified version of the method on a smaller piece and I liked it very much, even if I did give myself a blister.

The project that I basted is the Pieced Christmas wall hanging. It is now ready for machine quilting when I need a break from the DWR. I've tested out some thread combinations, and I'm not really happy with any of them, so that will be the next thing to explore. I want to use a somewhat heavier thread than regular sewing thread, and none of the stores around here have anything suitable. I guess I'll have to order some samples the next time I place an online fabric order.

The projects that I'm removing from the list for the time being are the Spring wallhanging, the Stack 'n Whack Fans, and the Swap Blocks. I'm not motivated to work on any of these right now, so I'll just set them aside and work on other things.

As for knitting, this is peak season for Knitting for Noggins, the project for Arkansas Children's Hospital. I will be away all next week attending various meetings, and my bag is already packed with yarns for a variety of hats. And I'm planning ahead to Christmas, and have an assortment of gift items planned and in progress; but of course I'm not going to share details of those.

Time to get back to work. Stitches don't grow on trees.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

This is what I've been slogging away at for the past month. It was meant to be finished for a July wedding, but now I'm hoping for Christmas. I didn't want to show it until the wedding couple had had a chance to see it, so it's been the mystery project up to now.

It's still in the block construction stage, but moving well along. My goal is to have the blocks finished by the end of this week. At the very least I want to be started on the quilting by the end of this month. I'm not planning anything fancy for the quilting; the story here is all in the fabric.

For those that want details, the blocks are 24 inches. The finished quilt will have 36 blocks, so it will be a generous king-sized quilt. The arcs are being paper-pieced, which helps make sure they come out the right size and helps control all those bias edges. And of course the background pieces are all fussy-cut to highlight the pineapples and the love birds.

I almost like the way this quilt looks in the photo better than I do close-up. The picture gives me a chance to step back and see the overall effect, and I love the alternating light and dark effect in the rings.

Now back to the sewing machine.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A long-overdue update. July was about getting ready to go on vacation, then being on vacation. And I've been too busy sewing and otherwise being creative since I got home to take time to upload pictures. And while I was on vacation I discovered Facebook --- nothing more needs to be said about that.
A couple of finishes to show off. First is the little quilty wall hanging:
I didn't do anything fancy in the quilting, just an echo around the figure, and some random cross-hatching in the border. It now hangs what was the one last blank bit of wall in my studio, and stands guard over the baskets holding current works-in-progress. The kitty seems happy to be finally out of the drawer and doing what she loves best - snoopervising.
The second finish was the leaves quilt:
This one too had been languishing for far too long, and I'm happy to have it done and ready to hang when the season changes. And in the process I got back into the rhythm of hand-quilting, and figured out how to get enough light to see what I'm doing while sitting in my favorite chair, so I already have another hand-quilting project in the works.
The real news is that I'm taking a class in dyeing fabric from Quilt University, and these are the results of my first efforts:
The far left fabrics are the results of the first pass through the bucket of dye - bright, clear, primary colors. There is a little bit of mottling on the red and blue, but I would use these fabrics in a project, since I mostly think mottling adds character to the fabric. The middle column shows what I got from the second pass through the buckets; these fabrics are much paler and more mottled. And finally I did some color mixing with what was left over: blue-yellow, red-yellow, red-yellow-blue. Again, they are mostly quite usable colors, although the tan would not be my favorite.
I had great fun doing this. Old Chemistry Teacher Brain kicked in from time to time, and reminded me how to handle powders that I didn't want drifting around the room, and the importance of wearing my rubber gloves, no matter how much I hate them. I'm really looking forward to the next lesson, where we'll learn how to make secondary colors and how to get mottled fabric on purpose.
There are quite a few projects in progress at the moment. I dug out an old applique kitty project to take with me on vacation, so that's officially a WIP again. There's the hand-quilting project, which is a Christmas throw I put together a few years ago. I made a set of blocks from the Turning Twenty Again pattern, and have now turned them over to my friend Mary Jane to work out the layout. Today I finished sewing together the fans from the Stack-n-Whack fan project. And there is the Double Wedding Ring. There may be more, but these are the ones that are taking up space on my work surfaces.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The wastebasket next to my sewing maching is overflowing. There are fabric snippets and random threads all around it on the floor. So something must be getting sewn, even if I don't seem to have a lot of progress to report.

The major news is that the kitties thoroughly approve of their new cozy pieced onto a dryer sheet foundation. I put this together on Sunday, and brought it up to the house, where it was thoroughly ignored. I realized that this was somehow related to the code of kitty ethics, so I tried not to get worried and did my best to ignore that it was even there. Monday morning I was rewarded by Bart checking it out, then Princess figuring out that he had something neat and bugging him to death until he left and she could check it out. Eventually they figured that it was almost big enough to share, and they have been doing so quite nicely for the past two days. The only major problem was a tendency for the thing to skid when they leaped up onto the credenza. I may add some puff paint paw prints to the backside to make it less slippery.

I finally got up the nerve to cut the fabric for the Stack-n-Whack fan quilt. I know I'm not the world's most accurate cutter, and I was worried that my cuts to create the stack that gets whacked would not work. Once I realized that this initial cutting was followed by squaring up and opportunities for accurate alignment of the layers I was fine. The fans look quite stunning, actually, especially on the cheddar yellow background. I'm not sure yet just what the finished product will look like, but I think it will turn out quite nice.

This weekend I am off on a ramble. There's a quilt show in Birmingham, and that seemed like a good excuse for a road trip. So as soon as I get finished in Lake Providence tomorrow I will head east. Friday I will do some general shopping, then be ready to hit the show early Saturday morning. I plan to come home with enough background fabric for the fans to do nearly anything I want to with them. And who knows what else might come home with me. And I'm going to take the tesselated leaves with me; if the light is good enough in the hotel room I will work on that in the evenings. And of course there will be knitting, probably socks.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

I've been pondering what to do with these swap blocks. For the immediate future, the answer is to put them back in their basket and work on something else. But there is a plan for them. I just can't do it now.
The first thing I saw when I put them up on the design wall was that they were a pretty uninspiring lot. Lots of pretty little calicos, but not consistantly. There's one block that's black and white, and another that has some pretty vivid yellow hand-dyes in it. There's a good bit of brown, and blue and green, but they don't really go well together. And the overall effect is pretty muddy and blah.
So I turned to Sharyn Craig for inspiration. She has a whole book devoted to setting blocks that takes ugly ducklings and turns them into pretty respectable swans. The first message was that the finished quilt can be whatever color you want it to be. And she shows examples from blocks laid out on different colored backgrounds to make her point.
Now these blocks are pretty small and plain, and there are quite a lot of them. I don't want to make two quilts, and I don't want the finished quilt to be enormous, so that limits how much extra fabric I want to add. But I decided to pull some strips out of the scrap bin and see what I liked.
The red seemed to do the most for the blocks, and there is no clear red in any of the blocks themselves. So that seemed a natural choice for the sashing. But then yellow is my favorite neutral color, and I immediately saw what I wanted the sashing to be:
That pretty yellow star does quite a bit to distract from the surrounding blocks. But by itself it's not quite enough. The colors are still pretty muddy. So the next step is going to be to overdye the blocks and see if that will add some zest to the mix. I can visualize the final product - a bunch of blocks of varying shades and intensities of blue. But right now I don't really know how to do it.
The good news is that Quilt University is going to be offering some dying classes next month. So I will be patient and take the classes and get some guidance in my experimentation, and then see what I can turn these blocks into. Meanwhile, there are plenty of other things to work on.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I have a new Fab Four list. The first is a project that was actually on the last list. It's called Tessellated Leaves;
I think the original pattern was by Doreen Speckmann. I started hand-quilting this top late last summer, but I haven't gotten very far with it. And actually, I'm not sure that this is the best way to handle this top. My original vision for this top was a bit different. So I will have to decide how to proceed from here. I've decided that at least in this case "done is NOT better than perfect." There's potential here that needs to be developed.
The second I am just calling Spring for now. I did this as a mystery top several years ago, and as soon as I got the leaves and yo-yo flowers on it, I realized that just one blob of dimensional applique was not enough. So it went into the drawer, and there it has languished. I've gotten as far as pulling out all my Baltimore album books and assembling a stash of fabrics, ribbons and buttons that might eventually make their way onto the finished top. Experimentation will be the key here.
Number three is a small hanging that I made from a purchased pattern a couple years ago that just needs quilting. I think stippling or close cross-hatching in the black area, and something simple to just hold the layers together in the border. Nothing to detract from the applique, since that's the star here. I hadn't looked at it for a while, and was actually quite pleased with the quality of the stitching still. So it's time to finish this little cutie and hang it somewhere in the studio.
Finally, number four. This is a collection of blocks that I acquired in a swap. There's 55 of them (some look like ones I made and didn't send in the swap) and they're 8" blocks, so there's enough to make a twin sized top. I don't remember what the block name is; it looks like a "Framed Four-Patch," except that the frame uses a partial seam technique. The problem is that the colors and fabrics are all over the map and frankly the quality is marginal. I'm not willing to throw them out, but I don't want to invest a lot of time or money in the finished product either. I'm hoping that the right sashing will do wonders for them and make me fall in love with them.

So that's the new list. There's a variety of tasks and levels of difficulty presented. They are things that can be worked on in short bits of time in between working on the secret project. This week I did get the new folding table and some flamingo pink stacking baskets, so these UFO's-now-WIP's will have a place to live other than my ironing table while they are in process. Now all I have to do is quit talking about what I'm going to do and get to actually doing it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Two more finishes to brag about. The first was sort of finished a couple of years ago, but I was never really satisfied with it.
The vast expanses of solid pink seemed to overwhelm the Laurel Burch fabric that was meant to be the focus of the quilt, and it's hard to overwhelm Lauren Burch. At the same time I didn't want to do anything too fussy. I thought about using the spaces to display collectible Laurel Burch buttons, but they are much too expensive to just slap onto a wall quilt that will mostly hang in my studio. Covered buttons were the solution. I even removed the shank wires that come in the kit and glued them on with E6000, following a tip I read in the latest American Quilter magazine. So a problem solved in a pleasing way. And I've got another project in the works that might benefit from covered buttons. I guess I'll have to start keeping them in stock. Some fused applique helped cover another problem and add interest to the center at the same time.
The Sunflower quilt was inspired by an awesome piece of fabric and a book called 9-Patch Pizzazz by Judy Sisneros. It uses large cuts of the large floral print and 9-patches to fill in and blend. It took a while to get the design just right; lots of arranging, photographing, rearranging, photographing again, then sitting back and waiting for what felt right. The subtitle of Judy's book is "Fast, Fun, and Finished in a Day." Well finished in a year more like it. There are some deviations from the "straight and narrow" that are not immediately apparent. Some of the yellow squares do not belong to a nine-patch; in fact there is one that is just appliqued in place. But they somehow helped create the flow of color through the piece, and so are ultimately necessary. The other deviation is in the quilting. It's just a simple diagonal cross-hatch, except that every yellow square has a quilted X through it, but the lines are not necessarily carried through to the larger pieces. Again, it was about continuity of a certain kind, but not necessarily traditional. The result is a nice wall quilt to use in late summer or early fall.

Meanwhile I have been hard at work at a quilt that I can't show pictures of yet, but which involves paper piecing and fussy cutting and a lot of precise but tedious work. In between bouts with that I am working on kitty cozies. The one with the big green and white + in it started life as some blocks pieced from scraps onto dryer sheet foundations. As I was going through boxes of scraps I found the green and white strip, left over from another project. It was too good to cut up, so here it is. I haven't tested the dryer sheets with the kitties yet to see if they approve of the residual scent; when this one has batting and backing I will let my crew give it a test nap.

The other one I put together today in about 30 minutes. I had strip sets left over from Hunter's quilt, so trimmed them to a consistent size, discovered I had 8 of them, and found a coordinating cat fabric to slap into the middle. Instant kitty cozy top. And no dryer sheets on this one.

So the studio is a total wreck but good things are happening there. I had to take this set of pictures with the quilts clipped to my fabric storage bins because the design wall is occupied with the secret project. In fact, I'm beginning to think this is the time to get the sheets of homosote and do the design wall properly, so I can have multiple projects at that stage. So far I've resisted it, but there comes a time when half-assed will no longer do. I'm also going to invest in another folding table, so I have more surface area to cover with projects in process.

I started this year with four projects that I wanted to finish before the end of the year. Three of the four are done; the only one that is languishing is a hand-quilting job that now has to be at the top of the pile because it's the only one left in the pile. But that means it's also time to sort through the bins and pull a couple more UFO's out of hiding that might become potential finishes. Having a list of four was a good idea; I could ignore all the others and not get weighted down by the mass of them. And each of these needed something different; I'll have to think about that too as I try to decide what should go onto a new Fab Four list.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I have been dying to show off this quilt. I think it is one of the coolest things I have ever created. Usually by the time I finish a project I just want it done. This one I'm still in love with, warts and all. I think I love it so much because it is truly a creative effort, not just following a recipe created by someone else. I will bet money that there is no other quilt in existence quite like this one.

The official name of the quilt is "Choosing Hope Over Fear," a phrase taken from President Obama's inaugural address. In many ways it embodies my prayers, my hopes, and my fears for this new president who is determined to chart a new course for America.

This quilt began with Friendship Star blocks obtained in a swap in 2003.The blocks were made by quilters in an on-line group and come from the length, breadth and heart of the United States. Each woman wrote her name, city, and state on the blocks she contributed, so the geographic diversity is easy to recognize. At the time I received the blocks, I thought something along the lines of "Red States, Blue States, United States" I bought some red, white and blue prints to serve as companion fabrics, but then set the blocks aside. Something was missing.

On election night, November 4, 2008, a different on-line group was planning to spend the night working on a "vigil project," since there was every reason to believe we would not know the winner of the Presidential election until very late at night, if even then. I decided the red, white and blue theme was appropriate to the occasion, and started making reversible blocks using Sharon Pederson's method of quilting individual blocks and joining them.

The final creative spark for the project came from Cat Bordhi, a knitter. On the morning after the election she wrote in her blog:
The Moebius *appears* to have two surfaces and two edges - ie, polarities such as black and
white,right and wrong, good and bad, Republican and Democrat - but when you follow the
surface around you will run right into your starting point without ever having changed to the
other “side.” For there isn’t one. Everything flows into itself. Polarities are an illusion. What
lies beneath the apparent polarities is oneness, beauty, and grace. In a Moebius you can see
it, hold it, be awed by it.
I realized the quilt needed to be a mobius in order to truly capture the idea that there was no such thing as a right or wrong side, and that even the idea of "taking sides" was not helpful in current political conversation.

So the quilt is a mobius. It can be rotated freely around the hanging rod, although for the sake of taking pictures I coaxed it to lie fairly flat. The quotation from Cat Bordhi has been printed onto printable cotton fabric and sewn along the edge of the quilt; this same strip extends to become the maker's label.
The last stitch in the quilt was taken today, April 29, 2009, President Obama's 100th day in office. It seemed an appropriate way to mark the day.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The logjam has finally broken free. The stuck has become unstuck. Water is flowing again. Whatever cheesy metaphor you want to use, use it. The fact is, finished objects have been pouring out of the studio this week. Finished quilted objects, not just knitted hats (useful as those are!).

It started with National Quilt Day last Saturday and a need to do something to mark the day. But with a table piled high with unfinished projects, it had to be something that I could reasonably start and finish in one day. Obvious choice was a baby quilt, and the Super-Sized Nine Patch was even more obvious.

I went in search of three fabrics. I got really inspired and pulled out a piece of flamingo fabric. Mingo fabric tends to be "precious," not to be squandered on mere baby quilts, but the day was right, and I realized I had hoarded this fabric for at least two years, and it was time to quit hoarding fabric that would ultimately end up in a yard sale after I die.

The other two fabrics were happy to be partnered with the mingoes and within an hour I had the pieces cut for the trio of quilts and was starting to put the first one together. By the time I quit for supper, and ultimately for the day, the first of the mingo quilts was finished except for a few feet of binding. Definitely an accomplishment for National Quilt Day.

But I still had not accomplished my goal, so Sunday saw me back at the machine finishing the binding on the first mingo quilt. With it done, it was on to quilt #2. Meanwhile I showed finished quilt #1 to Mary Jane, who promptly decided she needed two of the three for the newborn twins of one of her friends back home in Canada. (I had suggested that grandson Hunter needed some mingoes in his life, but she decided the quilt was a little too pink and a little too "girly" for Hunter). Back home to finish quilt #2, which was done by Monday and delivered.

The first two just had a flannel backing and no batting. I decided since #3 was to be saved for a future need it could be different, so it got batting and a cotton backing. It was done somewhere around Wednesday. It then acquired a rust stain from the iron as I was giving it a final smoothing, which then meant waiting for a sunny day so I could apply lemon juice and salt to the stain; that finally happened yesterday, so it is now washed and dried and waiting for a baby that needs it.

But then of course, that left Hunter without a blankie. On an expedition to the quilt shop on Monday I found a perfect piece, and bought a yard. Of course, since the print was directional, I should have bought an extra quarter to do the Super-Sized Nine Patch, but I didn't realize it was directional until I got it home and laid it out on the table. That meant coming up with a Plan B, but a very simple Plan B, since the same expedition resulted in the acquisition of a very large amount of fabric destined for a Double Wedding Ring quilt that needs to be finished on a deadline.

The result of Plan B is here:

I finally finished it today, all the way to a label on the back. It turned out quite nicely for a little boy with musical parents (his daddy plays guitar and his momma plays piano). His daddy's favorite color is orange, and there is orange in the print, so that was an obvious choice (the same color is on the back). The red has musical notes printed on it. And the other fabrics are just happy baby colors and prints. It was quick and easy and I hope Hunter enjoys it this summer.

I was also happy to see that Princess, the new ruler of the household, has taken on the job of nap-testing quilts:

This was mostly Callie's job, although Buster was quite capable at it. But since their departure, there was no resident nap-tester (Bart is more into yarn than fabric things). She immediately came to see what I was doing when I was trying to get pictures of Hunter's quilt, and knew immediately that she was to get in the middle of the quilt. Getting her to sit still long enough for a picture was not easy, but I suspect that this will change as she gets older.

Hunter's quilt was finish #4 for the week. After months of finishing nothing quilted, this was a major accomplishment. But the day was not over, and there is still a rather large pile of unfinished objects cluttering up the studio that need to disappear if I'm ever going to work on a gigantic DWR. So work continued.

The next closest project was this kitty cosy:

I had made a couple of these for Buster's carrier while he was making regular trips to the vet, Andrea, and he really liked them. So I decided to make some for Andrea to use at the clinic. This is a "biscuit quilt"; each square is individually stuffed with polyfill, then the squares are sewn together, and I've added an extra layer of batting between the "biscuits" and the backing. This one shows definite lack of planning in the arrangement of colors, but I know the kitties won't care, and it's off the table. They're not exactly a speed project, but they do use up scraps, and they serve a useful function. And Princess has already checked this one out and has certified its "nap-ability."

Five finished objects in one week. I know that's a record for me. But it feels so good to have something to actually take pictures of and talk about for a change. I'm still working at clearing the decks for the DWR. Next in the pipeline was the election quilt, and I made some progress on it before I quit for the day. I'm going to continue to work through the projects on the table at least through Monday, and possibly one more day (starting the DWR on April Fool's Day seems amazingly appropriate). Whatever isn't done then will have to be stashed away. I'm hoping that there will be very little to stash, and more pictures here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

In memory of Buster

Crossed the Rainbow Bridge February 16, 2009

My gentle giant has found a new home in a place where:

there are trees to climb,

a cozy quilt and a circle of sunshine when it's time for a nap,

a quiltmaker to supervise,

a dog to take a walk with,

and a full dinner dish.

Thanks for sharing your life with Calico and Gracie and me.

I will miss you.